Some of the old Birmingham men whose characteristic hospitalities I have just described had, as is pretty well known, certain habits which, looked at by modern light, would seem somewhat plebeian. For instance, there were men of wealth and importance who made it their custom often to go and spend an hour or two in the evening at some of the old respectable hotels and inns of the town. They had been in the habit of meeting together at these hostelries in their earlier days to talk over the news, at a period when daily local newspapers were not published, and they adhered to the custom in their advanced years and wealthier position, and rejoiced in visiting their old haunts and smoking their long clay pipes, and having a chat with old friends and kindred spirits.
All this has died out now. For one thing, most of these old inns and hostelries have disappeared with the march of modern times. We have clubs now and restaurants, also hotels, where visitors “put up,” but the old-fashioned inns and taverns have mostly gone. The present generation of prosperous well-to-do men, too, are of a different stamp from their predecessors. They do not take their ease at their inns after the manner of their fathers. They have been educated differently, and take their pleasures in a more refined way, as is the fashion of the time.
Some of them have been to public schools and to the university, and they naturally live their lives on a more elevated level. As a rule, they are good, practical, straightforward, worthy men, though there are, of course, some who are rather amusing in their little pretentious ways—as there are in all large communities. Many of these, finding themselves well off, begin to discover they had ancestors. They name their houses after places where their grandfathers lived or should have lived. They put crests upon their carriages; they embellish their stationery with a motto, and otherwise put on a little of what is called “side.” But Birmingham people are not worse than others in this respect. In fact, I think there is less affectation, pretence, and snobbishness, or at any rate as little as will be found in most places of the standing, wealth, and importance of Birmingham.
Sometimes when I am visiting a newly-risen manufacturing town which has lately blossomed out into a state of thriving progress, I am forcibly reminded of what Birmingham was some years ago, and think of the changes that have come over our city during the past thirty or forty years. The everyday social life is in many respects different from what it was. Young people, with a higher education and more advanced ideas than their sires, keep their parents up to date, and it is the young people who rule the roost in many houses. The hearty but comparatively simple hospitalities of a generation or so ago are regarded as quite too ancient.